Building Bridges: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971 and its Legacy
Building Bridges: Your Community and Labor Report
Produced by Ken Nash and Mimi Rosenberg
Attica, Blood in the Water: The Attica Prison Uprising of 1971
and its Legacy!
Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood In The Water
Although much has been written about the take over and ensuing assault on
the Attica prison by state police and national guard troops some four days
later which resulted in the murder of forty three individuals, including ten
hostages, one statement by a 21 year old spokesperson for the inmates,
himself later executed by police after they retook the prison, rings no less
true or powerful today, some 45 years later:
We are men! We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or
driven as such. The entire prison populace, that means each and every one
of us here, have set forth to change forever the ruthless brutalization and
disregard for the lives of the prisoners here and throughout the United
States. What has happened here is but the sound before the fury of those
who are oppressed. We will not compromise on any terms except those
terms that are agreeable to us. Weâve called upon all the conscientious
citizens of America to assist us in putting an end to this situation that
threatens the lives of not only us, but of each and every one of you, as well.
â Elliott James âL.D.â Barkley, 1971
Forty-five years after the rebellion at Attica, one of the greatest civil rights
uprisings of that century stunned the nation, millions of Americans mostly
men and women of color are locked away in prisons often for decades.
But, Attica continues to serve as the inspiration, most recently for the
largest prison strike in the history of this country and as Eddie Ellis, our
recently deceased WBAI radio journalist, prisoner reform advocate and
former Attica prisoner who was locked in one of the secured areas of the
prison during the uprising said: âthe bloodshed at Attica did something
important it exposed what was being done to people and it also showed
what men were able to do in a few short days when we work together.
That history will serve us, one way or another. The choice, as it has always
been, is up to us to dismantle the system of mass incarcerationâ.
Heather Ann Thompson, author of Blood In The Water, draws from more
than a decade of extensive research and sheds new light on every aspect
of the uprising and its legacy, giving voice to all those who took part in this
forty-five-year fight for justice: prisoners, former hostages, families of the
victims, lawyers and judges, and state officials and members of law
enforcement. Blood in the Water is the searing and indelible account of
one of the most important civil rights stories of the last century.
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